Nokia debuts touchscreen phone – aims to defeat Apple in mobile music

3 Oct 2008

Nokia’s iPhone video

If Apple thought it was secure with its dual iTunes/iPhone strategy, then think again as the world’s largest mobile maker Nokia says it has the goods – aka the phones – and enough alliances with music labels to give Steve Jobs a run for his money.

All eyes are on the horizon. The music industry has learned to cope with its fate and is wildly striking up alliances with innovative players ranging from MySpace to Nokia.

Beyond the horizon is a world of music on the go. You hear a song on the radio and just want to hit a download now button. You want all the music you can eat, and pay a fixed subscription. Fundamentally you want it all now, wherever you are and whatever device you carry. Only Nokia wants to be that device.

Meanwhile, Apple is threatening to throw its toys out of the pram and shut down iTunes if it has to pay artists a hike in royalties.

In London and Singapore yesterday Nokia debuted its Comes With Music service, which it believes will revolutionise the music world.

In what is regarded as true throwing down of the gauntlet, Nokia also unveiled its first touchscreen phone, the 5800 XpressMusic, which will include the Comes With Music service, as well as coming pre-loaded with mobile video service Qik.

Taking advantage of touchscreen technology, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic introduces the ‘Media Bar’, a handy drop-down menu that provides direct access to music and entertainment, including favourite tracks, videos and photos.

The Media Bar also offers a direct link to the web and to online sharing. Because the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic supports Flash content, individuals can surf the entire web, not just pieces of it.  In addition, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic offers all the music essentials, including a graphic equalizer, 8GB memory for up to 6000 tracks, support for all main digital music formats and a 3.5mm jack. Built-in surround-sound stereo speakers offer what Nokia claims is the industry’s most powerful sound.

Comes With Music offers one year of unlimited access to the entire Nokia Music Store catalogue, and customers can keep all the music that they have downloaded at the end of the year to continue enjoying their music collection.

Comes With Music will be available across a range of Nokia devices, including the new Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and the Nokia N95 8GB and Nokia 5310 XpressMusic.

With more than 10 million units sold globally since its introduction last year, Nokia claims the 5310 XpressMusic is the best-selling music phone in the world.

“Comes With Music sets a precedent for consumer value and convenience that the rest of the digital entertainment industry is already copying,” said Tero Ojanperä, executive vice-president and head of the Nokia entertainment and communities business.

“Trying out a music recommendation is spontaneous as customers can download without worrying about the cost of an album or a track – the freedom and simplicity of the service is unparalleled. And Comes With Music gives you unlimited access to the millions of tracks in the Nokia Music Store and the music is all yours to keep – because it’s not a revolution unless you get to keep your music,” Ojanperä added.

EMI Music yesterday became the latest major label to support Comes With Music.

Comes With Music will also feature a tremendous selection of independent music, courtesy of deals with The Orchard, Beggars Group, IODA, the Ministry of Sound, PIAS and Pinnacle. These companies join Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group in supporting Comes With Music.

Nokia has also secured music publishing rights from CELAS on behalf of EMI Music Publishing, GEMA on behalf of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, SACEM on behalf of Universal Music Publishing, as well as the MCPS-PRS Alliance.

“With the launch of Nokia’s Comes With Music, fans now have a new avenue to find and enjoy music from EMI’s catalogue, and our artists have a powerful new way to reach their fans,” said Douglas Merrill, president, digital business for EMI Music.

“By encouraging music discovery in an innovative and consumer-friendly environment, Comes With Music will continue to push experimentation in the digital music industry,” Merrill said.

The gauntlet has been thrown; battle is about to be joined and no doubt you can guess that Apple’s Steve Jobs has a few surprises up his sleeve. Maybe iTunes Unlimited is not such a crazy idea afterall. As he can readily attest, necessity is the mother of all invention … and innovation.

By John Kennedy

 Pictured: Nokia’s first touchscreen phone, the 5800 XpressMusic, which will include the Comes With Music service

Nokia’s iPhone video

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years